What’s in a coffin?
Okay, a dead person. What I meant, as you perfectly well know, is what is important in the eyes of the people who choose them? There’s a huge range, now – it has multiplied over the last ten years – catering for a very wide range of needs and tastes. Does any other country offer such a range?
The cheapest could never have got any cheaper; even cardboard hasn’t managed to do that. Cardboard is a peculiarly British deathstyle understatement, especially when bought by someone who could afford much better.
Eye-friendly coffins sell well. Anything without a repellent and chilling gleam. A Sunset coffin is especially good at not gleaming, and manages to be tactile as well; your fingers make a beeline for it. Lovely. Printing technology has made possible the explosion (can I say that?) of picture coffins, and also the facility to make them very personal. They’re lovely, too.
And then there’re the eco-coffins – the ones made from natural materials. Banana leaf, water hyacinth, bamboo, etc, all of them imported, so not as eco-friendly as all that, but the price is pretty good and they look nice enough in their faintly foreign way.
Those who want an indigenous look go for willow. But most willow coffins aren’t made from British willow, and it shows if you knows. The weave is loose, the willow shiny, either because it is sprayed with varnish or with a mixture of turps and linseed to stop it going mouldy on the way over. Compared with a willow coffin made in the Somerset Levels, these coffins are much cheaper and very much less than cheerful. But I would guess that a lot of consumers don’t know where they come from or what the difference is. They probably suppose they are being buried in something relatively local, but they’re not.
People buy a willow coffin often because they want to put something back. And while I wouldn’t quibble for a minute with the quality of the coffins made by Somerset Willow or Musgrove Willow, there’s another willow coffin out there which enables the buyer to put something back in two ways.
The WinterWillow is made in Cambridge from English willow. It’s a class act – a lovely piece making. It’s a good price at £625 direct to the public, fully lined and kitted out. And all profits are ploughed back not into the boss’s new car but into the very deserving Wintercomfort charity, which supports the homeless and teaches them skills for work.
Right stuff, direct sale, good price, saintly people. I can’t think of another coffin with as many selling points. It’s the kind of purchase that would make anyone feel proud to write the cheque.